Rhubarb

General Description/History

  • Botanically a vegetable
  • Similar to celery
  • Red burgundy stalks
  • Wide green leaves

Succulent quality stems of rhubarb are in demand by consumers, mainly as a dessert, and the crop is marketed both fresh and by processing outlets. Rhubarb is usually grown as a perennial, but the plant does not last indefinitely. Its average useful life is about 24 years.

When purchasing rhubarb, look for glossy, firm, crisp stalks and fresh looking leaves. Even and well coloured stalks are often, but not always a sign of good flavour. Avoid rhubarb that has a wilted, flabby appearance. Age is indicated by stalks that are rough and stringy.

Rhubarb is botanically a vegetable, but because of its high acidity and flavour, it is used as a fruit. It has long been popular in pies, but is also frequently used in tarts, sauces, puddings, jams and jellies. It combines well with cereal products like rice, apples and strawberries. Finely shredded/sliced raw rhubarb adds a refreshing flavour to fruit and savoury salads.

Cool conditions without extremes of heat and cold are favoured by rhubarb for consistent quality production. Although the plant will withstand light frosts, heavy frosts can cause severe damage to leaves and stems resulting in die back.

Rhubarb will flourish on a wide range of soils, from the sands through to heavier sand clay loams. Preferred soil types are those that offer good drainage and high levels of organic matter.

There are two methods of propagating rhubarb – either by division of crowns into planting pieces or by seed. Crowns are divided into planting pieces by cutting between the buds or”eyes” so that a piece of storage root material is attached to each separate bud.

Seedlings can vary greatly and are not always true to type, thus crown division is preferred for a uniform crop.

Rhubarb growing is a very labour intensive crop. Weed control is essential with most of this done by hand hoeing. Close plantings with a strong leaf canopy will suppress weed growth to a large degree.

Earliest records of the use of rhubarb date back to about 2700 B.C. in China or Mongolia. Here the root was used for medicinal purposes. It is interesting to note that it was not until the 18th century that in Britain and in some other European countries the stem of the plant was used for culinary purposes. The commercial rhubarb we know today is believed to have originated in southern Siberia and the region of the Volga.

Nutritional Value

Rhubarb is a good source of vitamin C, dietary fibre and potassium, a useful source of vitamin B1 and contains some vitamin B3. 25kJ/100g.

Storage/Handling

0°C and 90 -100% relative humidity.

Rhubarb continues to respire at a fairly high rate especially if subjected to warm temperatures. It therefore needs to be covered and stored away from refrigeration fans.

Consumer Storage: Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Season: Summer,Autumn,Winter,Spring

Botanical Name: Rheum rhaponticum (Polygonaceae)

Alternative Names: 

Availablity: January,February,March,April,May,June,July,August,September,October,November,December

Growing Areas: 

QLD – Mt Tamborine, South Moreton, Toowoomba
VIC – Melbourne Outskirts
SA – Adelaide Hills
VIC – Melbourne Outskirts
SA – Adelaide Hills